|SAUL LOEB / AFP-GETTY IMAGES|
Mitch McConnell has emerged as a villain of immense consequence -- even Benedict Arnold comparisons fall short -- because of his refusal to sound the alarm when the extent of Russian election interference became known in 2016, to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller, and to be a check on a rogue president after eight years of playing obstructionist meanball with a good president. (Remember Merrick Garland?) And it's apparent that a big reason that the Senate majority leader is not standing up to the rogue president, let alone not even breaking a sweat over the government shutdown, is because of a very big skeleton in his closet -- he's filthy with Russian money himself.
In one respect, McConnell is even worse than Trump.
Trump is an ignoramus about American history and a fatally clueless narcissist, while McConnell is deeply versed on that history, smart and clever, albeit like a fox. He has calculated that his 38 percent approval rating, which is as lousy as Trump's, may threaten his chances of remaining the longest-serving Republican leader in Senate history and being reelected to a seventh term in 2020. He is unpopular back home in Kentucky and ranks among the least popular senator in the country with his own constituents.
McConnell has no personal investment in Trump and never has. He probably hates Trump's guts, while his survival as a GOP majordomo is contingent on staying on the president's good side until his own power is threatened and he can pirouette away and break ranks. Or Trump double crosses him.
In any event, Trump needs McConnell more than McConnell needs Trump. And screw the republic and the horse George Washington rode in on.
While McConnell certainly is not compromised to the extent the Don is, he has had much to do with making over the GOP into a pro-Russian party. He got a cool $2.5 million in the 2015-16 election season from Ukrainian-born billionaire Leonard "Len" Blavatnik, an oligarch who is the business partner of Oleg Deripaska. (Deripaska did about $60 million worth of business with Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and controls three companies that the Trump administration thoughtfully is relieving of Obama administration-imposed sanctions.)
Charles Pierce calls McConnell "the thief of the nation's soul," and while America's multiple political crises have a distinctively bipartisan stench, it is not possible to top his shameless moral bankruptcy.
As its first act in the new Congress, the new Democratic majority passed House Resolution 1, a massive anti-corruption measure aimed at restoring the credibility of American elections, safeguarding the right to vote that has come under steady Republican attack and outlawing partisan gerrymandering. It also called for a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United, that most pernicious of Roberts Court decisions.
McConnell's reaction to this forthright, clear-headed and long overdue clarion call for reform?
"It's a power grab," opined the man for whom exercising power as an end unto itself. "Apparently the Democrats define 'democracy' as giving Washington a clearer view of whom to intimidate and leaving citizens more vulnerable to public harassment over private views. . . . The bill goes so far as to suggest that the Constitution needs an amendment to override First Amendment protections."
I would argue that McConnell, by virtue of flagrant violation of an oath of office he has taken six times and perpetual exploitation of his leadership role for power and profit, has done more to undermine democratic norms than even Trump.
But nothing tops his rejoinder to Obama in September 2016 when he and Paul Ryan, Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi to the Oval Office where he pleaded with them to forge a bipartisan alliance to fight back against Russian election interference and work with state and local election officials to thwart Election Day threats. McConnell refused, telling the president that he was trying to politicize the matter and, if he went public with the interference, he would use it as a political hammer on Hillary Clinton, whose campaign at that very moment was being sabotaged by his Kremlin pals.